We lost Leyla Gencer at 10 May, eight years ago. But do we know her abilities? Let’s get to know her a little. She was a Turkish bel canto soprano who was a member of La Scala in Milan. She performed more that 70 roles. She is known for her Donizetti roles, and she played many of the unforgotten operas of Donizetti.
Rather than focusing her life and career, I will examine an aria she sang that fortunately we have a recording on youtube. There is a few record left of her. Look how great she sings ’’D’amor sull'ali rosee’’ from Verdi’s Il Trovatore. She was known for her piano high notes which requires very hard vocal technique. This technique is named after her ‘’gencerata’’. When we understand this is the ‘’top’’ moment, she sings the high note perfectly piano and the effect is doubled. It is like you reach the most dramatic point but you can not mention it still. Also, you will notice that how she sings the low notes from chest voice. This is sound imperfect but how devoted to the role. This imperfection I adore because I can feel the emotion very intensely, I can imagine that she tries to tell us something. Perfect tones aren’t necessarily give the emotion after all.
This aria is sang by Leonora. Manrico has been captured for trying to save his mother from execution. Leonora comes to the prison in disguise to see him. She hopes that he will be sustained by her love for him. How she sounds powerful at the beginning, how strong… She gives confidence to herself and her surroundings. However, how much misery she got, how fragile she is actually, this is perfectly perfectly given by the dramatic nuance she made.
Timor di me ?...sicura, Afraid of me ?...sure,
presta è la mia difesa. ready is my defence.
I suoi occhi figgonsi ad una gemma His eyes are attracted by a stone
che le fregia la mano destra. she wears on her right hand.
In quest' oscura Wrapped in the dark
notte ravvolta, presso a te io son, night, I am near you,
e tu nol sai...Gemente and you don't know it...
aura che intorno spiri, Wailing wind,
deh, pietosa gli arreca carry to him, mercifully, my sighs...
i miei sospiri...
D' amor sull' ali rosee On the rosy wings of love,
vanne, sospir dolente: go, pained sighs:
del prigioniero misero go to alleviate the sick mind
conforta l' egra mente... of the wretch that lies imprisoned...
Com' aura di speranza Like a breeze of hope
aleggia in quella stanza: linger in that room:
lo desta alle memorie, wake him up to remembrance,
ai sogni dell'amor! to dreams of love!
Ma deh! non dirgli improvvido, Yet do not imprudently
le pene del mio cor! reveal the woes of my heart!
After a very successful career, she was the artistic director of the academy for opera artists in Teatro alla Scala. She also thought opera interpretation in there. Not only she has a huge variety of roles in her repertoire, also she was very famous with dramatic nuances, also she was a great researcher and she reintroduced many forgotten works of the romantic period to the opera stages. Can you imagine she was a prima donna of La Scale in such era that Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi, Monserrat Caballé, Joan Sutherland and Beverly Sills were present? It was a great success and great pride for Turkey.